In a dreadful week for the rouble, Alexander Lukashenka, the president of Belarus, has gone out of his way to make matters worse, threatening to suspend the use of the Russian currency in bilateral trading deals.

“If they are buying our products in Russia they can pay in dollars,” Lukashenka told a government meeting in Minsk on Thursday. If Belarus has to deal in the world’s worst performing currency “then it has to be at the exchange rate on the very day, on the very hour. ” Read more

Russian asset prices have taken a severe battering this year and are now ranked as among the cheapest in the world. The obvious question many are now asking is, “is this a good time to buy” or “is there more pain to come” which might lead to even lower prices and valuations in 2015?

Apart from the cheap valuations, the reason why investors are asking that question now is because, during Russia’s previous two recent crises, in 1998/’99 and 2008/’09, we had similar situations where the reasons to continue avoiding the country were overwhelming but it was, nevertheless, exactly the right time to buy. Read more

Tanzania has become the third east African country in as many months to discover the size of its economy is bigger than previously thought, benefiting from a surge of investment from gas explorers.

Tanzania joins neighbours Kenya and Uganda in their hefty upward revisions. Statisticians say the new estimate for the size of the economy in the country of 51m people is $41bn, 32 per cent more than previously estimated and the highest revision leading the east African pack, followed by Kenya (which rose 25 per cent at the end of September) and Uganda (13 per cent, also this month). Read more

China slowdown, collapsing currencies and the double-edged sword of cheaper oil – Jonathan Wheatley and James Kynge of the FT’s emerging markets team discuss the outlook for 2015 in EM countries.

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In the pale sunlight of an unseasonably warm December day, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday cut the ribbon to open the Mihailo Pupin Bridge, spanning the Danube in west Belgrade.

Logistically, the $170m, 1.5km bridge, built by state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation, is intended to ease traffic in and around the Serbian capital. But Li’s visit to Belgrade has a considerably greater significance – the latest steps in China’s efforts to use the Balkans as a bridge to Europe. Read more

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

In a Slovyansk café bar this month I received a rude wake-up call about the weakness of western support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aggression in the Donbas. A soldier on a neighbouring table listened in to my conversation in English with a humanitarian aid worker and, when he got up to leave, delivered the comment: “You useless fuckers”. Many more Ukrainians have been dismayed at the weak response from the US, Canada and Europe. Read more

By Jan Dehn, Ashmore Group

As the Fed prepares to hike rates in 2015, the window of opportunity presented by hyper-easy monetary policies for developed economies to undertake deeper fundamental reforms is rapidly closing.

So far, hardly any progress has been made. President Obama’s tenure has not seen the country’s economic problems solved. US trend growth has halved since the 1960s, while the debt stock has doubled to more than 350 per cent of GDP (not counting the further 300 per cent of GDP in unfunded social care liabilities). Europe and Japan recently re-engaged in QE-type stimuli to defend their fundamentally challenged economies from the effects of higher US rates in the future. Read more

By Arthur Bastings of Millicom

Africa watchers frequently comment on how technological innovation on the continent is leap-frogging more developed markets. But now the market is more competitive than ever and companies have to look ahead to anticipate consumer needs and stay relevant. What’s next for Africa’s digital and mobile revolution? Read more

“They’re coming up every morning, just like churches,” Peter Kari, a father of two living in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, says of the private schools mushrooming in his neighbourhood. “They die as they’re being born. You can wake up one morning and see a tin shack. The other night it was a pub. Today, it’s a school.”

A ride down one of the main roads in Kawangware offers evidence for Kari’s claim. Within five kilometres, there are at least fifteen visible signs for private schools, with names like ‘Brightest Star,’ ‘Top Shine,’ ‘Springs of Wisdom,’ and one (see photo) unfortunately misspelt ‘Havard.’ Read more

By Tony Volpon of Nomura Securities

The Brazilian economy is in a perilous state as it enters 2015. Economic growth is flirting with an outright recession this year. Inflation is oscillating around the upper bound of the inflation target. Fiscal accounts are showing a primary deficit, and measures of indebtedness are rising. The current account deficit is also rising and the country may see a trade deficit in 2014.

External conditions are unlikely to improve in 2015. Brazil was one of the big winners from the Chinese-driven commodity boom, so it is not surprising that many of the problems we see today began with the fall in the country’s terms of trade that began in 2011. Whatever the inadequacies of the policy response, the government does have a point when it argues that external conditions have been a big part of the slower growth seen since 2011. Read more

By Saurabh Mukherjea of Ambit Capital

As I finish my two-week year-end trip to meet our western clients (around 40 of them), it is obvious that enthusiasm regarding investing in India is at record highs. Over the past fortnight, I have met at least 10 western-hemisphere-based funds that have either just started investing in India or have applied to the Indian securities regulator for Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) status (which allows them to access the Indian stockmarket directly). Even more interestingly, half a dozen of the clients I met have moved to larger, better-appointed offices in money centres like London, New York, Zurich and San Francisco. Read more

As if South Sudan hasn’t enough to contend with, now it has the reprove of the usually buttoned-up IMF. Following a review of the oil-dependent economy, the IMF outlines the “acute challenges” facing the new country, which started tearing itself apart in a civil war just three years after achieving hard-won independence from the Khartoum regime to the north.

In the first Article IV Consultation with South Sudan since the country became an IMF member in April 2012 – jargon for the IMF’s overarching macroeconomic assessment – the Fund paints a sorry state for the country with the highest per capita income in the region bar Kenya. Read more

Timothy AshBy Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

This time last year I was asked to contribute an article for beyondbrics on the outlook for 2014, and I chose Ukraine (see Hello 2014: Ukraine’s crisis may run and run, December 20, 2014). That post turned out to be prescient, although even I could never have imagined the remarkable turn of events in that country this year.

For 2015 I think Ukraine will remain in the headlines, but its future is likely at least partially to be determined by events in its eastern neighbour, Russia. The new reform administration in Kiev can succeed, if Moscow gives it some breathing space and scales back its own direct intervention in Ukraine. Read more

By Mohamed El-Erian

One of the main challenges facing emerging countries in 2015 will be dealing with increased economic and policy “divergence” within the advanced world. It is a challenge that will widen the gap between well- and poorly-managed economies. It is also one that will tax even the best-run economies. In turn, their response will influence the prospects for the advanced world. Read more

It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.

Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman

Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more